So we have made it through week one (and if you’ve done it without shouting at anyone or drinking wine at 9am then give yourself a big pat on the back!!) And for some of you who were self-isolating before the schools closed have been doing this now for 2 weeks, maybe 3 so I salute you!
I thought I would get down some of my reflections from my first week of lock-down! It's been a bit of a roller-coaster I can tell you! These are the key things I've learnt about myself and my family over this first week:
1. You have to know your own child and treat each child differently! In terms of 'school' activities I know every school has taken a different approach here, from daily scheduled tasks with work being sent to the teacher for marking right down to chucking out a few website suggestions and letting you just crack on with it! So what is right? I've discovered what is right is what is right for each individual child independently. I realised quite quickly last week that my eight year old actually needs and likes a bit of structure and routine but she also needs to learn that it's OK to deviate sometimes too! She's a real rules follower and has enjoyed setting out timetables for the day, having set break times and setting timers to keep us on track! But I also want her to know that it's OK to mix things up too, so sometimes I'll just switch things up and throw in an extra long lunch break or put off an activity until later. During normal times her days are filled with structure and routine as she has so many after school activities and practices so I want her to use this time to explore life without those confines to allow her imagination to run free and let her discover what things she truly loves!
My four year old is a different character! He is more than happy to just potter about and play and can keep himself occupied for hours. He is just in nursery so is not set specific daily tasks but rather weekly activity suggestions. Now whilst it is helpful during these testing times that he will occupy himself, I want to make sure I also prioritise some time for him and one on one activities, helping him to learn through play.
Getting creative with outdoor learning!
If, like me, you have more than one child then there is definitely a period of adjustment for everyone and explanations needed to help your children understand why they may not all be having the same daily routine. We certainly had a few verses of the 'it's so unfair' theme song at the start of the week but don't underestimate out kids -they are very adaptable and incredibly resilient.
So if I can give any piece of advice here I would say that regardless of what has been sent by the school you need to do what is right for your particular child on each day! If one day you sense your child is feeling anxious or upset then forget the maths and play a board game. If the school have set 3 tasks and you child is feeling overwhelmed then just have them do one! These are unprecedented times and we are just muddling through the best we can. I heard a wonderful podcast this weekend with the inspirational Mo Gawdat where he said your kids are not applying for Harvard right now so give everyone a break and just have some fun together!!
2. You will have nowhere near the amount of free-time we all expected! When we were facing the prospect of lock-down there was a lot of stuff bandied about mentioning all the things we'd finally be able to do around the house! Well I don't know about you but what with managing school work, my own work, keeping a 4 year old entertained, the laundry mountain, the never-ending meal prep and the endless snack requests and trying to fit in exercise, zoom calls, face time with family, etc. I barely have time to go to the toilet (which is probably just as well given the current toilet roll situation!!!
3. Your house will be a mess! I've realised I just have to accept this situation! What with school books and activity sheets that somehow seem to turn up all around the house, lego cities that get built in the middle of the living room that must under no circumstances be touched, games and toys abandoned half-way through in favour of some new activity, temporary work stations for you and your partner taking over living areas and, in my situation, stock piled up in the living room! Not to mention the fact that you have no time to do any cleaning even if you wanted to!
4. You need to give yourself a break! I mean this both literally and physically! We have realised that the days are long with everyone on top of each other all day! Our kids have always been night owls and now without the 'threat' of needing to get up for school it is even harder to get them to bed at night so it feels like there is little or no time for ourselves as parents, so we have had to get creative to carve out some time! One of us may go for a walk on their own during the day, I like to try to get up a little earlier than the kids and have some quiet time then. However you do it, make sure you do, even if it's just to have a bath in peace or take 20 mins to have a cup of tea and read a book. It's also important to give yourself a break from beating yourself up about getting things right. We are all just learning as we go, some days we may feel we've got the balance right and other days seem to go a bit pear-shaped but instead of beating yourself up about it, realise that we are all in the same boat and sometimes we get it wrong, simply start the next day afresh!
A different Mother's Day to the one we all planned
but one filled with love and smiles!
5. Find the positives and show gratitude. I know, it can feel like a scary time and I understand that some of you may have lost loved ones, lost your jobs or be battling illness yourselves and my heart truly goes out to you, but those of us who can, owe it to those who can't to spread a
little positivity in order to balance out all the negativity. Think about your own personal situations rather than the Global one; what silver linings can you find during this? For me it is that although we are separated physically from friends and family I have actually never felt so connected to people. Loved ones checking in with each other every day, video chats with friends and family, online virtual lessons, WhatsApp groups, Facebook groups, it honestly feels like I have support everywhere I turn. One of my biggest highlights from last week, and one I truly recommend, was watching my 8 year old daughter host a Zoom catch-up with her whole school class! It really was quite a thing to behold! I also truly believe that we, as a family, will come out of this situation stronger, with more love and compassion for each other and with a drive and resilience that will see us through whatever life throws at us next.
I challenge you to find your own personal positives during this coming week (oh and stock up on wine!!)